Myrtle Beach responds to lawsuit with photos of ‘suffering’ dog

A photo taken by Myrtle Beach Police as they seized Sasse, a 16-year-old American Staffordshire terrier, from her owners in 2015.
A photo taken by Myrtle Beach Police as they seized Sasse, a 16-year-old American Staffordshire terrier, from her owners in 2015. City of Myrtle Beach

An Indianapolis couple is suing Myrtle Beach after police seized their dogs and one was euthanized, but City Manager John Pedersen said the dog was dying of organ failure.

A picture of the dog, taken in 2015 when the couple was arrested, shows it crouched over a food bowl with its ribs protruding from its body and its tail between its legs.

Last week, The Sun News reported on a lawsuit focused on the 2015 incident, brought by the dog’s owners, Janice and Keith Huston of Indianapolis. The couple said their two dogs were well cared-for and should not have been taken. Sasse, the American Staffordshire terrier in the photo, was later euthanized by a local shelter.

“This decision [to euthanize] was made in concurrence with the Humane Society’s vet in order to end the suffering of a dog that at that point was about 17 years old, and was dying a slow death from organ failure,” he said in an email.

The Hustons are currently suing the city of Myrtle Beach, the police department, Grand Strand Humane Society and the hotel where they were staying. An attorney for Myrtle Beach and the police declined to comment for the earlier article. The Hustons said that they fed both their dogs regularly and that they knew Sasse, who they said was roughly 16, was approaching the end of her life.

“She wasn’t dying of anything that morning. She was old and thin and she was well cared-for, beyond well cared-for,” Janice Huston said Monday.

By contrast, a police report on the original incident said the dog “was nothing but skin and bones, no fat tissue or muscle. It was clear this dog needed to have immediate veterinary care.”

The report said the other dog, Arthur, had a sore on its back leg. It also stated that the couple did not provide a medical diagnosis that might have explained the weight loss.

The couple’s lawsuit, however, said that police did not allow them to re-enter their room to show the food they had brought for the dogs. In an interview last week, the couple said they fed the dogs as well as they did themselves, and that Sasse had taken to eating several small meals throughout the day in her old age.

The couple was arrested on suspicion of animal abuse on Oct. 29, 2015, when the dogs were taken from their room at the Mermaid Inn at 5400 N. Ocean Blvd. The charges connected to that arrest have since been expunged.

“The charges were dismissed by a municipal judge as part of a negotiated plea deal in which the owners agreed to pay the extensive vet bills that the city had incurred in an effort to restore the owner’s dog to health,” Pedersen said. “Apparently, the dogs had not been to a vet in over 2 years prior to this incident.”

Janice Huston referred The Sun News to speak with her attorney when questioned on when the dogs had last seen a vet. The attorney, Thomas Winslow, could not immediately be reached on Monday afternoon.

But last week, Janice and Keith Huston said their pets were beloved members of their family.

“We treat our dogs better than people treat their children,” Janice Huston said then.

Chloe Johnson: 843-626-0381, @_ChloeAJ